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How The Financial Crash Changed Millennial's Attitudes To Money Forever

'I'm about as close to getting on the property ladder as my dog is'

Ten summers ago, I graduated from uni, flew to LA with my boyfriend for a last, long trip without a boss to sign off annual leave, then returned to London and - like most of my friends - started my first Proper Job hunt.

When I was offered a full-time position in my dream career - journalism - a few months after graduation, I elatedly threw myself into building the new ‘working wardrobe’ of grim black polyester suits from Oasis that I thought were vital for this whole career thing.

I had no idea, though, just how lucky I’d been to get my first job right then.

In fact, I was one of the last people my boss employed for more than three years. A few days after I sat at my new desk, on 15 September 2008 the collapse of giant US investment bank Lehman Brothers triggered one of the worst financial crises in history. Millions of jobs were lost, hiring freezes came into force, pay faltered.

It was especially grim for millennials: coming of age in a recession meant both soaring unemployment rates and paltry wages for anyone who was lucky enough to get themselves a perch on an office chair.

At the time, though, the perception was: this is horrible, but once the economy improves, so will our generation’s prospects.

Not so, according to new research: people aged between 30 and 39 are today earning £2,100 a year less than people of the same age group in 2008, according to the influential Institute for Fiscal Studies.

That’s an average salary that’s more than 7 per cent less than what now 40-somethings were earning a decade ago.

Pay for those in their 20s is 5 per cent lower; over-60s saw earnings fall just 1 per cent.

The even worse news is that US economists claim that your income growth in your first ten years at work determines your earnings over the whole of your career income so, er, we’ll just have to keep on saving for that jet-set retirement...

Except, it’s a struggle to save much because - on top of strangulated salaries - the financial crisis also stymied UK growth, left interest rates at a record low of 0.5 per cent for almost a decade and affected 30-somethings more than any other generation.

Take Sarah, 33, who graduated in 2007, found a job in finance, and started renting a flat. “But I hated working for a big corporation, and quit after a year to go travelling,” she explains ruefully. When she returned, recession had set in: “I had to move back to my parents', and couldn’t find another job for six months. When I did, it was on crappy pay, and really boring.

“It took me two years to work my way up to a job I liked - in HR - and to a salary that meant I could move out again. But, money wise, I feel so far behind where I thought I’d be at this age.”

Sarah now prioritises having a nest egg to cover three months’ rent - “in case I was to struggle to find work again” - despite banks’ paltry saving rates. Whilst £1,000 would have earned £652 in interest between 1998 and 2008, investing the same amount over the past ten years would earn just £149.

“But,” she adds, “given there’s no way I could ever save enough for a flat deposit in London, I don’t feel guilty about spending some of my savings on nice holidays and clothes.

“My parents make comments about my splurges but, after living through the recession, it feels a bit like my finances are slightly out of my control, hostage to bankers and the government, so I should enjoy myself when I can afford to do so.”

That’s the whole avocado and latte complaint about millennials, triggered by the comments of an Australian property tycoon who said when he was saving for his first home, he “wasn't buying smashed avocado and coffees”.

The BBC, though, worked out it would take 25,000 avocado toasts to afford an average suburban flat in London, where house prices have rocketed since the financial crash - pushing rents up too, and heavily influencing millennials’ financial behaviour.

“I blame the unattainable housing market for my delay in becoming an adult,” says Jo, 30. “Growing up used to mean moving out, renting or buying your own place, getting married, kids, moving up the property ladder. Because I’ve got so much less cash than my parents had at this age, and housing is so much more expensive, I’m about as close to getting on the property ladder as my dog is. I feel like saving just isn’t worth it.”

That’s especially felt by some younger millennials who started uni after 2012 and have hefty student debts.

Then there’s the millennial view on banks themselves: the traditional Royal Lloyds of Santan-Barclays institutions aren’t popular. Analysts report a “massive distrust” of existing financial services; instead, this generation picks challenger, digital banks like Starling, Monzo, Revolut, Atom and Tandem.

Some 40 per cent of millennials say they never visit High Street bank branches. Sarah says she’s one of them: “I never go to a bank. It’s mostly a convenience thing - my local one is never open when I’m home, and the app is much easier. But I like to think it’s also a moralistic stance, an aftermath of the financial crisis.

“Banks kickstarted the recession which has stolen my generation’s birthright - I don’t want to spend any of my weekend in one.”

Being an Adult: the ultimate guide to moving out, getting a job, and getting your act together (Scribe, £12.99) is published 11 October